To determine the effect of cold ambient conditions on proprioception and cognitive function in elite alpine skiers.
22 high-level alpine skiers and 14 control participants performed a proprioceptive-acuity (active movement-extent discrimination) and a cognitive (planning task) test in cold (8°C) and temperate (24°C) ambient conditions.
All participants displayed an increase in thermal discomfort and the amount of negative affects in the cold environment (all P < .05). Average proprioceptive acuity was significantly better in the elite skiers (0.46° ± 0.12°) than in the control group (0.55° ± 0.12°) (P < .05) and was not affected by cold ambient conditions, except for a shift in the pattern of error (over- vs underestimation, P < .05). Cognitive performance was similar between elite skiers and control participants in temperate environments but decreased in the cold in the control group only (P < .05) becoming lower than in elite skiers (P < .05).
Elite alpine skiers showed a significantly better proprioceptive acuity than a control population and were able to maintain their performance during a cognitive task in a cold environment.